Six new COVID-19 cases in the “big family” of Goodooga in remote north-west NSW are of significant concern, authorities say.
Having confirmed two coronavirus cases late last week, Goodooga posted six more in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday.
The town of about 250 mostly Indigenous people, north of Brewarrina near the NSW-Queensland border, was swabbed en masse late last week after the first cases were reported.
NSW Health data shows that as of last week, vaccination rates in the town were lower than 10 per cent. However, authorities say there has since been a local vaccination drive.
Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service acting manager Katrina Ward said about 160 jabs were administered locally last week.
Western NSW chief executive Scott McLachlan said the situation in Goodooga nevertheless remained of major concern.
The town, like all of regional NSW, is in lockdown until at least August 28. Sydney is in lockdown until at least late September.
“It’s a community we’ve got to have top of our priorities, to help people get tested and vaccinated,” Mr McLachlan said.
“I know it’s tough [there], a big family in the whole of the community, but it is time to keep your distance … stay safe.”
Across the Western NSW local health district there were 24 new COVID-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday. In total, the district is managing 283 COVID-positive people.
Of these, 234 people are in the Dubbo area.
Five people in the district are in intensive care, with one ventilated.
“We need to assume it is in every community, your next door neighbour, down the street,” Mr McLachlan said, adding there was still too much movement between communities.
Mr McLachlan also confirmed that Narromine Hospital to the west of Dubbo would be transformed into a dedicated COVID-19 hospital, catering particularly to northwest NSW communities.
Bathurst Hospital’s emergency department will also be expanded.
“We know we’re going to need patients closer to our intensive care and highly skilled clinicians in Dubbo,” he said.
The Far West local health district had three new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday. However, Deputy Premier John Barilaro said on Monday that 15 more positive cases had come in after the reporting period ended, all of which are in Wilcannia.
Of the three cases reported on Monday, one was in Wilcannia, where a funeral held before the area was locked down has caused concern for health authorities. Two cases turned up in Broken Hill.
People who have been in Wilcannia should be tested even if they don’t display symptoms, Mr Barilaro told reporters.
Mr Barilaro also said Cobar, Lithgow, Bathurst and Orange residents needed to turn out in big numbers for virus testing.
NSW Labor health spokesman Ryan Park criticised the government for major delays in processing virus tests and said the western NSW health system was in crisis pre-pandemic.
In some cases, residents have waited up to six days for test results.
“Now with the pandemic in the community, the hospitals and health care workers are under enormous pressure,” Mr Park said.
“The best way for us to bring this pandemic under control is to make sure we are detecting cases early … that is not happening.”